Safely Tapping Oil Wells

Leaks are damaging, not only to the marine ecosystem, but also to the image of the pumping company. Keeping crude oil safely in the pipeline at all times is therefore an absolute must. This is known in the industry as “blowout prevention”. The technology that guarantees this is highly complex and costly. After all, it has to operate under extreme conditions. As soon as a hole is drilled in a deep-sea oil well, the oil comes shooting out at high pressure. In addition, currents on the sea bed are often rough.

Blowout prevention under these kinds of conditions requires more than just solid seals. To counter the oil pressure, heavy units around the drill head press against the sea bed. The electronics of this apparatus are controlled by special switching cabinets. BARTEC recently delivered seven of these cabinets for an oil platform run by National Oilwell Varco (NOV), one of the world’s leading suppliers of equipment to the oil and gas sector.

“Every application case is different,” explains Xavier Hamers, Vice President Western Europe at BARTEC. “A well in the North Sea will present completely different challenges to one in the South Pacific.” The drilling platform in question is found in the middle of the North Sea off the coast of Scotland, where it is battered every day by raw winds and powerful waves. The front plate of the cabinet had to be painstakingly engraved so as to ensure that it can still be read well into the future. This special requirement and many others were made easier thanks to the close cooperation between NOV and BARTEC technical consultant Markus Etzel. The systems were produced at BARTEC’s facility in Bad Mergentheim. The empty switching cabinets were delivered by NOV and then filled according to the customer’s precise specifications.

On time despite changes
Particularly challenging were the requests for changes, which often came while test runs were still ongoing. “That is to be expected during the course of a project,” explains power engineer Etzel, speaking from experience. “The most important thing is to be able to react flexibly, so that everything still works.” This flexibility allowed the customized offshore application to be delivered in half the scheduled time. “The team at BARTEC made a decisive contribution to the project being completed so quickly and the panels being delivered five weeks ahead of schedule,” says John Warden, Electrical Projects UK Field Engineering at NOV Rig Solutions. Each of the switching cabinets will soon control ten units, doing their bit to keep Scotland’s waters clean.